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Cannes: THE MAN WHO WAS NOT THERE review

Alright, so Dr Sotha and I were out late the night before… He said something about the ground powder of a blowfish having the ability to make any and all French women our slaves.











Meeting Dr Sotha and realizing that Peter Lorre had a child with Ingrid Bergman, I knew he was a man of means and powers beyond those of mere mortals. His high pitched sniveling laughter when his pygmy trained chimp dumped the ingredients into the cup of… a goddess…











We sat and watched. We watched and watched, waiting for her lips to dry, for her throat to scratch, for the arid tongue… THEN… Suddenly she downed the drink.











Dr Sotha was quite happy as was his mini-pocket-chimp!











I was horrified. Is this how Sotha captures his women? Was this how Peter Lorre got Ingrid Bergman? Was I going to witness Sotha with an insanely beautiful French Babe skin the naked snake?











I was frozen in a Jack Kamen stare, beads of sweat frozen to my boulderish brow.











Suddenly Dr Sotha motioned for the Vixen to bring us a plate of fromage… Like the stuff the moon’s made of kiddies… And as she bent over to set the plate down, he reached into her purse and pulled out a pass for THE MAN WHO WAS NOT THERE… An invite… a sacred parchment… That which Harry needed to attend.











You see, Dr Sotha had a badge, I did not. But then I could see LORD OF THE RINGS footage, and he could not… so life sucks a bit for each of us.











We left and headed back over to the OLYMPIA 2 screening room… lined with it’s leather seats and curved screen… I had watched THE LORD OF THE RINGS footage in this very room mere hours before. This room has great karma.











The room began filling up. Apparently, I overhear that this is the very first time outside of the Coen Brothers’ own control that this film was being screened.











OHMYGODI’MABOUTTOSEEANEWNEVERBEFORESEENCOENFILM!!!!











I’m sitting there… Center… Awaiting with great anticipation: the first Black & White Coen Brother Film. What would it be like? How would it start?











On a Barber Pole. Black and White spiraling for an infinity… Corkscrewing through our lives. Ok, maybe I’m reading into it here, but it is a lovely opening shot, especially the camera tilts…











When the film finished, there wasn’t a sound. No claps. No cheers. Nothing. I sat there, utterly convinced that the film had just bombed at CANNES… People walked out as the credits rolled, and I looked at Sotha, who had that blowfish powder snort look on his face.











I just started spilling love for the film everywhere. It felt as though I was the only one for whom the movie was made. That’s my favorite type of movie too. The movie that you fight for in arguments… The one that you know that everyone else will be wrong about.











I was all set to explain that not only is it a perfect film noir… but a perfect satire of the genre told with an absurdist spin that just killed me.

Have you ever watched Hitchcock’s THE WRONG MAN? In a way, that’s the style of this film. It’s about how regular the irregular can come and go.

It is about how wrong it is that a Barber dream of being a Dry Cleaner!

And that.... brothers and sisters.... let me tell ya, it is a very wrong thing.

The same sort of wrong that a boy wanting a Red Ryder BB Gun with a Compass in the stock can be. We all know he’ll shoot his eye out!

Well here, the rules of Film Noir means that nobody that is unjust can go unpunished. And Punishment is a bitch in this film.

The last three Coen Brothers have further pioneered their adventure into the Theater of the Absurd. A place where people behave as the Coen’s make them. Where the world operates as the Coens say.

Billy Bob Thornton plays the best ordinary crooked type since Henry Fonda in THE WRONG MAN. That sort of pacing and emotional range. And just like with that film, Thornton's performance will surely go unappreciated by many in this world of film goers.

The film has a whole variety of actors and actresses that we know from the Coen world. All of them…. Wonderfully bizarre and strange and… off… off in that Coen way. Ya know?

For example no character is just simply… what they are, they are always more. Billy Bob is not just a Barber, but he’s also well… a type of barber. The type that doesn’t talk, the type that does smoke… Now he doesn’t talk, but to us, he talks non-stop. He’s continually talking, but telling us he doesn’t like to talk, and he doesn’t, but you’ll see… ummm… hear I mean.

Frances McDormand… she’s the housewife/bookkeeper at a department store. But well, she’s more, I suppose… She has another life altogether and in a way… How all these people have different lives or want different lives… well it all impacts rather brutally.

I really don’t want to describe the film to ya, not because I can’t, but because you should experience it for yourself.

In a way, the film is a bedtime story of a film noir as told by MAD Magazine.

The cinematography by Roger Deakins is hypnotic…

The score by Carter Burwell is like some sort of beautiful sleepy music. That really is the best way to describe it… it feels like the music to calm to, to ease out with, to be at peace with… ya know?

This film is made for those that like to read a pulp novel in a porch swing sipping lemonade and watching butterflies landing upon the honeysuckle. Ok, maybe that’s a particularly small audience… Sure that may not be you, but as someone that sips lemonade in a porch swing watching butterflies and honeysuckle while reading pulp novels… I CAN SAY WITH CERTAINTY I LIKE IT!

I hope you enjoyed the pics and the clips…













Click Here For Scene 1





Click Here For Scene 2





Click Here For Scene 3



Readers Talkback
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  • May 15, 2001, 7 p.m. CST

    i am first

    by tHEsKAVEN

    yip he

  • May 15, 2001, 7:01 p.m. CST

    i am second

    by tHEsKAVEN

    and do not care what this is about

  • May 15, 2001, 7:10 p.m. CST

    Billy Bob Looks Like a Cross Between Bogart and Robert Mitchum

    by Prankster

    Which can only be a good thing.

  • May 15, 2001, 7:13 p.m. CST

    Nick Pope

    by jspot

    Hey Nick. This looks fucking sweet.

  • May 15, 2001, 7:37 p.m. CST

    a little off the top

    by jeff bailey

    HARRY! You magneficent bastard! Thanks for the pics! Stunning looking! But what do you expect? Fuck QT! You coulda been a God QT! But the Coen bros stepped up to the plate and delivered yet another masterpiece! Two in one year! And guess what kids? Then another one on the way after THAT! God bless 'em! Take a hint QT. See its not that hard? Make a fucking movie once in a while! I hope they are all wrong and you really did make it. But who cares? I'm so pumped for this flick!

  • If there's one thing you wan't in film noir, it's irony, and the Coen's have always had this in spades. I think it's hurt their lesser films, such as Hudsucker, where they were working in a genre that can't stomach much of it. These clips had me laughing my ass off.

  • May 15, 2001, 7:57 p.m. CST

    Nice pitchers

    by Brother Putney

    It wouldn't be a Coen Bros. flick if there wasn't a scene that depicted a fat man glowering behind a desk. And look at that! We got a picture of a Fat Man glowering behind a desk. In glorious black and white, no less. I'm psyched. And on the "Forty Lashes" matter, jeff bailey keeps coming up completely correct. i wanted the rumor to be true mostly because nobody ever does cool fucking stunts like that with a big movie; nobody drops a movie out of the sky, particularly not when it's a long awaited effort by a popular director; we know the release date of a movie a year and a half in advance practically; it's the kind of kooky thing you know Tarantino would be getting-off on if the rumor involved a director he dug. But as time passes and cannes' end is in sight, it's looking more nobody ever does cool fucking stunts like that with a big movie.

  • May 15, 2001, 10:29 p.m. CST

    It's Coen, So I'm there

    by Critch Starblade

    Looks like it'd hold my interest, like the rest of the Coen Brother movies. As to the box office...who knows. O Brother did quite well, but O brother had George Clooney riding the Perfect Storm wave (Literally)! I would say 20-30 Million, depending on release dates of course.

  • May 15, 2001, 11:54 p.m. CST

    yesss!

    by Billy Bizar

    Looks like another masterpiece from the Coen Bros. Btw, although "The Big Lebowski" and "O Brother..." are not exactly pure filmnoir movies, these are masterpieces nevertheless. They just work on a different level.

  • May 16, 2001, 1:38 a.m. CST

    I wanna see this Coen flick!!!!!!!

    by Matt

    THe coen bros. are just great. I love them!!!!!!!!

  • May 16, 2001, 2 a.m. CST

    I love the part where Steve Guttenberg uses his invisibility to

    by Charles Grady

    THAT is the definitive MAN WHO WASN'T THERE. Get a new titles, Coens, lest you banish the Gutternberg classic to be rented only by accident by people looking for this flick.

  • May 16, 2001, 4:11 a.m. CST

    Not Being Facicious

    by TectorGorch

    To the person who put forth that Billy Bob looks like Mitchum in this flick...Try this on: I think he looks like Andy Griffith(sp) in that film (The name escapes me now) where he was a vicious killer. Knowing the Cohen sensability that film may actually be serious source material for "The Man".

  • May 16, 2001, 5:09 a.m. CST

    When is this movie coming out?

    by John Maddening

    Do we have a basic date yet?

  • May 16, 2001, 5:31 a.m. CST

    Oh my gawd...i'm so there...

    by Bannlust

    This is so much fun it's freaky...

  • May 16, 2001, 5:34 a.m. CST

    Can't wait

    by vertigo93

    Hollywood has given us some dumb clunkers of movies recently, but it also gives us the Coens. Cherish them.

  • May 16, 2001, 5:51 a.m. CST

    Where's John Goodman?

    by deadfiller

    Doesn't he have it in his contract to be in every Cohen film?

  • May 16, 2001, 6:26 a.m. CST

    Start at the beginning Preacher Powell

    by DrZeus

    If you want a good baptism in all things Coen, start at the beginning and work through to the present. Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, Big Lebowski, and O' Brother. You can rent them all, and I am sure you will like them all as well.

  • May 16, 2001, 6:29 a.m. CST

    Correction

    by DrZeus

    O' Brother is not for rent yet. On June 12th it'll be out on video.

  • May 16, 2001, 6:49 a.m. CST

    Preacher Man, your path is wise and true

    by trippyguyuk

    You speak words of reverence. What you must do is seek out the following... Blood Simple - the Coen's first twisted noirish twisty thriller. And it is great. And has a shot ripped off (homaged?) in the Castlemine (zipper sound) XXXX ad Raising Arizona - the Coen's first twisted comedy that has a cool actor changing his usual acting style to fit the bros. Miller's Crossing - you know how great it is, yes? Barton Fink - the Coen's first stunning twisted award winner and not really about writers block at all. Check the video cover. Heaven and Hell, angel and devil? The Hudsucker Proxy - the Coen's second twisted comedy which for my mind has one of the greatest twists (if it can be called that I suppose) which cunningly gets completely forgotten about until they're ready to pull it out of their vast hat. Fargo - the Coen's second stunning twisted award winner, (I'm taking MAJOR awards here people) yah? The Big Lebowski - the Coen's third stunning twisted comedy with the funniest dream sequence in my living memory. O Brother, Where art Thou? - the Coen's fourth stunning twisted comedy that has a cool actor changing his usual acting style to fit the bros. This is Clooney?!? And they're all stunning. And lets face it, they've gone this far without slipping, are they EVER going to make a merely average film, let alone a bad one?

  • May 16, 2001, 7:22 a.m. CST

    ACTUALLY... (CANNES EDITION: DAY 8)

    by SEATTLE SLEWW

    Hello Everyone. My trip to Cannes, NM, has been less than stellar thus far and, I have to say, Cannes elusive celebrities, mystery film locations and all around general lameness have soured my self-esteem. I suppose, however, major props are in order for the staff at Cannes Memorial Hospital, who managed to save one of my kidneys and have been instrumental in my not being dead. Good job, fellas. All that is of no comfort to me, as I have little desire to get my kidney scrubbed and cleaned when, in reality, I should be shooting up with a healthy dosage of Vitamin-C

  • May 16, 2001, 10:02 a.m. CST

    The third masterpiece of the 21st century has arrived!

    by L.B. Jefferies

    Third in chronological order, of course, after Traffic and Requiem For a Dream. I'd like to thank the Coens (and Soderbergh and Aronofsky) for showing us that American filmmakers don't have to make tripe all the time in order to keep working.

  • May 16, 2001, 10:13 a.m. CST

    Can... Not... Wait...

    by Smurfette

    The Coens are, by far, the most consistent and inspired directors of our time. They are prolific while still maintaining a high standard. Kudos to the Brothers Coen.

  • May 16, 2001, 11:17 a.m. CST

    Intentional or rough cut?

    by ILK

    When watching the clips I noticed not only flaws in the film (not the filmmaking, the film itself) but evidence of old fashioned cutting. Frames jump, hair and scratches appear, etc. If you are listening (anyone who has actually seen this film), were these flaws intentional (in the version you screened) or was this just a consequence of seeing a rough cut? Personally, it added to the experience for me (if you can call seeing a few minutes of a film an experience). With that said, I am looking forward to this film. It looks SUMTUOUS (spell?) and breathtaking. It has the same sort of impending doom hanging over every frame that American Beauty had but has the Coen's absurdity present as well. I was actually surprised to see another Coen's film this soon. Also love the shot of the Coens at the end of the article. My new wallpaper. Thanks Harry!

  • May 16, 2001, 4:57 p.m. CST

    Wait, that was a review?

    by Lenny Nero

    What the fuck, Harold?! Don't short-change me! I need more!

  • May 16, 2001, 10:45 p.m. CST

    I CANNOT wait to see this movie!

    by Cuppa Joe

    I LOVE Coen Brothers movies, and I LOVE Film Noir. This movie looks so fucking good, I can't wait!! When's the nation-wide release date?

  • May 17, 2001, 7:10 a.m. CST

    the trouble with Harry is that...

    by crazybastard

    he's sort of like the "boy who cried wolf" of movie reviews. You really never know whether he's gushing over a great, whorthy film (like this one and every other coen film to date) or a complete and utter piece of shit(armageddon, godzilla, Viva rock Vegas, Blair witch 2, Sugar & Spice etc.)I mean, with this movie I already know it's gonna be great because it's Coen, but if it wasn't directed by them then I really would have no way of knowing. Nowadays I never go see a movie just based on Harry's glowing review for it. I've gotten burnt too often that way. I remember reading Harry's positive review for Bicentinnial Man and then...and then I...I went...I...NOOO! It's all coming back! AAAAAAA!!!!!

  • May 17, 2001, 9:36 a.m. CST

    Please Harry...

    by Mr. Vegas

    ...stop treating us like we have no idea what makes a good movie from a bad one. I'm referring to the type of comment as above's "...like I was watching a movie made just for me..." as if no one else here could possibly understand it's genius. I've noticed more and more talk like that lately. We get it too, alright? Just because we're the general-admission public doesn't mean we don't know the biz...

  • Sept. 16, 2001, 6:31 a.m. CST

    another masterpiece?

    by jaCKie_O

    Friends, I think we all know Harry to be an altruistic kinda guy, who would not intentionally cause offence; and remember this IS his site, so a little discression and respect is due, in spite of his frailties. Anyway, this film will be hard pushed to better Miller's Crossing for both film noir/ general cinematic quality.